Two industrial releases to the environment that had significant impacts on Sarnia were resolved in court last week.
Shell Canada released a pungent smelling gas called mercaptan on Jan. 11, 2013 that drifted over the neighbouring Aamjiwnaang First Nation.
Dozens of people at the time, many of them children, reported feeling physical symptoms that ranged from nausea to red eyes and sore throats.
Shell pled guilty in Provincial Offences Court on Nov. 24 to discharging a contaminant to the environment that caused an adverse impact.
The court fined Shell $500,000, imposed an additional 25% victim surcharge and ordered the company to immediately pay $200,000 directly to the First Nation.
According to an agreed statement of facts, the chemical escaped from two small holes in an 8-inch line at the Corunna refinery.
Mercaptan is a pungent gas often added to natural gas to make it easier to detect, and in high concentrations can induce headache, dizziness, coma and death.
Residents north of the plant were advised to stay indoors and shut all air intakes following the release. The shelter-in-place lasted 85 minutes.
The second case involved Woodland Biofuels Inc. and the University of Western Ontario Research Park.
A Woodland pilot plant on Modeland Road is developing ethanol from wood chips with the goal of creating a low-cost energy source.
A test run was underway on Aug. 26, 2013 when a chemical smell was detected in the air and the plant shut down.
The wastewater outflow had mistakenly been connected to the Research Park’s storm sewers instead of the sanitary sewers, it was later learned.
The effluent ran from a ditch to a holding pond. Following a heavy rain the pond flooded into Perch Creek, which is home to several species of warm water fish.
According to an agreed statement of facts the discharge contained oil hydrocarbons and naphthalene at levels toxic to fish and enough styrene to taint fish.
The two facilities pled guilty to discharging waste that impaired the pond and creek’s water quality.
Woodland was fined $42,500 plus a 25% surcharge.
The Research Park, which had spent $190,000 on the cleanup, was fined $35,000 plus the surcharge.
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change laid charges in both cases following investigations.